Building the Continuum

Supporting Formation and Vocation in The Episcopal Church

Liberating Ministry

from the Standing Commission on Ministry Development

Note: This article (and report) was passed along to the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and Education to share with the greater Church because the SCLLCFE has created a site for its resolutions leading up to General Convention. At the moment, there is no one central location on The Episcopal Church’s website where such a resource could be (easily) found that would prove helpful to the local congregation. Such a website is what is being proposed in A047: Develop an Online Learning Community .

The following resource was developed in response to resolution C080 of the 76th General Convention that:

  • “…call(s) upon the Executive Council, provinces, dioceses, and congregations to promote and develop the discernment that all of daily life and work is ministry, calling for the intentional exercise of the Baptismal Covenant promises in all sectors of public as well as private life…”
  • “…(and to) assist diocesan Commissions on Ministry to promote and develop programs that will engage baptized persons in ministry discernment, and support congregations in providing processes for such discernment in community…”

While the title of the original resolution was “Lay Ministry and Leadership Development” the language of the resolution itself used terms connected to the ministry of the baptized.  A full acceptance of those ideas requires us to address a fundamental truth about ministry.  The ministry of the church grows from a single shared root.  We are not born as “ordained ministers” vs. “lay ministers”.  We are born as children of God all of whom have a ministry given to us at baptism.

Too often “ministry” (and to a large extent “leadership”) is seen as a function of the ordained members of the church.  This puts an inappropriate and destructive burden on the clergy because they are asked to not only fulfill their own roles but take up a large portion of the role of the laity as well. This can be (and too often is) ruinous for the clergy while inhibiting the growth in faith of too many of the laity.  In the end God and his church are not as well served as they could and should be.  The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) reminds us that the church carries out its mission of restoring the world to unity with God through the ministry of all (emphasis ours) its members. It also points out that the ministers of the church includes lay persons, bishops, priests and deacons (Catechism, BCP p.518)

In the search for appropriate resources for lay ministry, we found it difficult to identify resources for lay ministry; available resources most often available for ordained ministry. The purpose of this resource is to offer a starting point for all the members of the church to find their roles within the Body of Christ.  Additionally it offers assets to assist the laity in developing their understanding of their ministry and growing in those roles.  Developmental assets for those called to ordination have a long and proud tradition in our denomination.  It is hoped that this will mark the beginning of an equally rich tradition for the laity that will support the clergy in their ministries, enrich the lives of the laity, strengthen the church in its pursuit of its mission all to the greater glory of God.

Download the entire bibliography here:

  • Liberating Ministry: A Resource for All the Baptized in English
  • Liberating Ministry: A Resource for All the Baptized in Spanish
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One thought on “Liberating Ministry

  1. Caroline Black on said:

    In my diocese we have a Commission on Ministry for the Baptized which is one of two subcommittees of the COM. We find that most of the time the ministry of the laity is defined as supporting the system – LEMs, Lectors, etc., rather than living out the call of the Gospel. We have initiated a gifts discernment program which is very successful, but still seems to be viewed as the offering of gifts to the church community only. When time allows, I would like to revisit and adapt some of the Servant Leader material and see what kind of new models might emerge. The question her is not affirming the ministry of the laity, but what and how?

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